Disclaimer: what you’re about to step into is really depressing and frustrating with no inkling of hope whatsoever. You’ve been warned.
So remember that time I bored you guys to death with the chronicles of my sufferings as I attempted to purchase a Michael Kors and a Balenciaga from eBay?
But it happened, and the story only got more convoluted thereafter. First off, the much-anticipated yellow Balenciaga NEVER arrived. Presumably (from what could be traced from its tracking information), it reached the UK safe and sound from Greece, and then the US as well via the Royal Mail, after nearly three full months of patient waiting. In the US it was handed over to the USPS, who delivered it at the post-box of my agent’s warehouse, and, wait for it, from there, it got stolen! Somebody got really lucky. Or really unlucky, as we’re about to find out.
Now, you might remember why I’d embarked upon this bizarre journey in the first place, which was to initiate a startup in Bangladesh for pre-owned handbags, and my parents called me crazy for even imagining it would work. They still do. Why? We’ll get to it presently, but first, to continue where we’d left off, I’d become pretty much broke from buying the BBag and the MK, and now that the Bal had ended up dematerializing, how was I to navigate the troubled waters of e-commerce with only one purse? Well, weirdly enough, I have two people to thank for it, the first of whom was my (generally erratic) agent, who was gracious enough to lodge a complaint to eBay about the product’s non-arrival. As can be expected, the seller of the Balenciaga was perfectly horrified at the suggestion of a refund. Eventually, however, he (my agent, not the seller, who is probably a really kind and easily-agitated Greek lady) was able to haggle with the USPS and get the money back! And that is the reason I continue to use his services to date, despite his various idiosyncrasies.
After that, however, I’d ended up with a Michael Kors Riley, roughly $111 (yes, that’s what the £49 Balenciaga eventually ended up costing), and an Instagram page with barely 4 followers who weren’t my (equally broke) business partner’s various aliases. How would I be able to purchase more handbags AND promote my page? Well, that’s when my mom stepped in. Given her natural penchant towards shiny, colorful handbags, and the fact that out of sheer stress, I was scrolling through eBay all day (which frankly wasn’t that great of a stress-buster because who wouldn’t like to see all the bags that they can’t afford? Me, apparently), she came across and was immediately enamored by, two handbags from Dolce & Gabbana Denim (a short-lived diffusion line of the Italian fashion house).
And thus began a new era (for my business), one in which my mom invested in sixteen more handbags from various fashion brands, ranging from Coach to Michael Kors and Prada to Marc Jacobs. And with my mom taking charge of the investment, my partner and I began doing promotions, sponsorships word-of-mouth marketing, and even a campaign called Flaunt Your Bag featuring a handbag giveaway! And while we’re at it, we got to explore a lot of different avenues for buying resale as well: we came across another agent who could actually purchase from the US for less, while we ended up sourcing eleven of our sixteen bags from Vinted UK thanks to a UK-based agent!
However, as we only continued buying more and investing more, one thing became clear – the Michael Kors Riley wasn’t selling like crazy as I’d originally anticipated. In fact, none of it was selling at all. Talk about bleakness! Alongside that, another threat largely loomed. The first time I’d purchased it, I’d thought that the Michael Kors was in a questionable state. Boy, was I wrong. As the handbags kept pouring in, it became apparent exactly how mistreated handbags could get. From cracked handles, peeling leather and stains to grossly misrepresented colors and sizes, it seemed like “never used” handbags rarely meant that the bag was intact.
However, the biggest letdown by far was the Prada Nappa Easy Shoulder Bag from Vinted UK, with a much darker color and a sadder, droopier outlook than the website displayed. True story – the purse came folded in a 6” x 6” package, and the flap has got two minuscule fang marks on it from what I assume was a careless packing worker’s stapling spree.
In fact, it might be highly possible that the Greek seller’s Balenciaga wasn’t in that great of a condition either (as I like to console myself by saying). I sometimes hope that the “borrower” would be so dissatisfied with a possibly dirty (but unbeknownst to him, easily restorable) BBag that he’d return it to my agent’s post box. Needless to say, my prayers remain unanswered.
As more of these bags turned out to have numerous flaws, despite the sellers stating otherwise (and the lengthy delivery times to Bangladesh, meaning that they were beyond their stipulated return dates), my mom quickly lost interest in purchasing further. Besides that, as we interacted with prospective buyers, the stigma against buying pre-owned seemed to become all the more apparent: they’d rather purchase new counterfeits rather than pre-owned originals, and the financial and artistic value of designer seems to be lost upon them!
Hence, my parents are fairly convinced by now that this startup isn’t likely to work out, while my business partner, with his conservative views towards having models and overtly graphic designs, among hordes of other things, is putting more constraints than benefits at this point. Even for me, until now, the journey of this startup is terrifying, testing, and frustrating to the point that you’d want to rip your hair out, but in the end, having the bags in your hand at the end of the day seemed to make it all worthwhile. However, at the current position, as the bags themselves are turning out to be lackluster and flawed, I’m having second thoughts myself.
But at the end of the day, this startup is something that I really wish to keep doing. So, now that you know where I stand, what would you suggest? Is closing down and cutting losses the best option?